HR Case Study Answers

Thanks to everyone for their responses to yesterday’s HR poser. I think most people got halfway to finding a reasonable outcome, but I don’t think anyone got it completely. So first, here’s how I answered the question for my assignment.

My Approach

Let’s call the English blogger Tim, the Nigerian Adewale, and the Frenchman Gilles.

1. Gilles needs to read the article so he can discuss it factually. This will help him understand Adewale’s objections and, if he’s experienced and properly trained, understand the cultural context of the conflict.

2. Gilles should pass the article to legal, HR, the ethics committee or whichever department in the organisation is responsible for determining whether employees have broken the law or a company code of conduct. For information, the Company Code of Conduct states under “Political Activity”:

Employees who could be considered to represent the Group shall refrain from political activity in countries where they are not entitled to exercise political rights and where the Group operates. In addition, employees must refrain from doing anything that would be contrary to such countries’ traditions or cultures.

and they strive to uphold the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of which states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The Code of Conduct also says employees shall “refrain from intervening in the political arena of the countries in which they have no civil rights.” The company guideline on human rights states that:

By virtue of international Human Rights standards (notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), every individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The right to freedom of opinion guarantees that no one should be harassed due to their opinions. All individuals also have the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate any kind of information, provided that the privacy and reputation of third parties and the company are respected.

The reason Gilles seeks guidance on this is not to act on the information which comes back (necessarily), but to understand what his options are should reasonable attempts to solve the conflict fail. In negotiation terms this is called the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). I’m not a lawyer, but I think a good one could successfully argue my writing the blog post fell within the acceptable behaviour set out by the company’s governing documents, especially if it were in front of an Australian tribunal.

3. Gilles needs to talk to Tim and find out why he wrote the article, what he hoped to achieve, and to clarify certain points. In other words, intentions matter in these cases. So let’s say Tim gives his perspective (which I think you all know!).

4. At this point, if he is experienced and trained, Gilles should understand:

i) Tim sees a clear dividing line between his work and private life.

ii) Tim is aware of his rights under Australian law.

iii) Tim knows that he writes in a provocative, robust manner but did not intend to offend any individual, nor did he write it in the expectation any Nigerian would read it. In short, he did not deliberately set out to write an article which would upset his colleagues.

iv) Tim is displaying a degree of self-awareness and even social awareness, but self-management is lacking with the result that his relationship management is poor.

He should immediately recognise that Nos. i) and ii) are a product of Tim’s cultural background, i.e. the UK. Britain is (or was) a country of rules whereby people are generally free to engage in behaviour which is not explicitly prohibited (and yes, this applies in companies, clubs, and other organisations too). He thinks if the company says freedom of expression is allowed, then he is allowed to freely express himself.

By contrast, Adewale is from a culture where power is invested in the person, rather than distributed through institutions like in the UK. He therefore believes rules and procedures are subordinate to the will of the project director, and hence sees no reason why Gilles just can’t fire Tim. But Tim thinks Gilles has no such right as his power is severely limited by the company rules and national laws. And it is this cultural difference which is the root cause of the conflict.

5. Gilles needs to invite Adewale for a formal, structured conversation. He needs to try to get Adewale to specify exactly which words or phrases he found so offensive. This will help diffuse the anger and emotion from the conflict, effectively shifting it from an affective to cognitive conflict.

6. Gilles then needs to ask Adewale if he might soften his views in light of the fact Tim didn’t deliberately set out to upset his colleagues, nor was he targeting any individual. He was just sounding off as Brits tend to do. Perhaps arrange a phone call between the two, in which Tim can apologise?

7. If Adewale accepts, the conflict is resolved. If not, Gilles has 3 options:

i) Issue Adewale with a disciplinary warning for being unprofessional. This is probably unwise in an already heated situation.

ii) Do nothing and let Adewale resign (or not). This is dependent on how vital Adewale is to the project and how easily he can be replaced.

iii) Agree to fire Tim.

Let’s say he does No. iii).

8. If Gilles just fires Tim from the project, he risks at best a highly disgruntled employee and at worst a costly lawsuit. So it’s better to negotiate.

9. He should first ascertain how happy Tim is in his position in the first place. Maybe he doesn’t like Australia and would rather be somewhere else anyway? He should speak with the career managers and find out if there’s a half-decent position on another project, and then have a chat with Tim. He should start by saying there’s not a whole lot wrong with the article, but it’s inadvertently caused him a big headache and he’d really, really appreciate it if Tim would consider just stepping off the project to perhaps go and take up this other position. Gilles would consider it a favour, and he’d owe him a beer or two when they next meet up in HQ.

10. If Tim agrees to this – and he would – the conflict is resolved. However, Gilles’ authority in Nigeria has been severely undermined. This is was probably the plan all along: the Nigerians sensed weakness in the French manager and wanted to test it. This is once again cultural: it is unlikely a Nigerian would have threatened a fellow Nigerian in the same manner, and I expect a Chinese manager who brings such a conflict to a Chinese project director would have mere seconds to survive in the firm. The same goes for Koreans, Japanese, and probably Russians.

My Professor’s Comments

Bear in mind here my professor is a man with considerable experience running companies of all sorts, not some academic who’s never left the Sorbonne. His approach is:

1. Gilles thanks Adewale for bringing the article to his attention, and says he will deal with it.

2. He passes the article to legal/HR/ethics/whoever and gets back to running his project.

3. The end.

I wouldn’t have got a whole lot of marks if I’d answered my assignment like that, but he made some very good points. Firstly, he said a project director is there to direct a project, not waste time reading blog posts. Secondly, he is neither experienced nor qualified to ascertain whether a blog post breaches the law, company rules, or generates reputational damage for the company. His opinions on the post are therefore utterly irrelevant. Thirdly, the whole thing is likely an exercise on the part of the Nigerian to determine “who is the dog and who is the human”. As soon as Gilles starts even discussing the matter with Adewale, that question gets answered. He shouldn’t even open the subject, as by now it is off his desk and into another department where it belongs. Finally, he presumed that if Gilles had the competence to manage the situation in the way I suggested he’d probably not be assigned to a project in Nigeria in the first place. To paraphrase Donald Trump, they’re not sending their best. At that I could only grin broadly.

My professor also made the quite accurate comment that if a company really wants rid of you, they’ll do so one way or another.

What Actually Happened

1. Gilles caved immediately upon hearing Adewale’s demand and ran me off the project, hence I was forced to leave Australia and go to France.

When I reminded him of the corporate policies I cited above, he replied by saying: “But this is a project. You’re not being fired from the company, just removed from the project.” I went back and had a look, but failed to find a footnote saying corporate policies don’t apply to those assigned to projects.

When I suggested he might have approached this as per No. 9 in my proposal, he said with considerable annoyance: “I don’t have to do that, I’m the project director.”

I was actually quite happy to go to France, it’s just the position they assigned me was rubbish. Although I could have sought legal redress in Australia, frankly it wasn’t worth it.

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34 thoughts on “HR Case Study Answers

  1. I wonder if Gilles had more and more problems with his Nigerian staff after he buckled. He certainly took the line of least resistance, or what he thought was that line.

    I ran a project in South Sudan for 3 1/2 years, and for every new European line manager coming in, his national staff would always test him in some way. It might be theft, a strike, refusal to work or something significant. The old sweats (usually white ‘Africans’) explained early on to me that all they want to do is to understand where the boundary is. If you buckle over an issue, they will keep pushing more issues until you push back. Then they settle down. I saw it so many times, I ended up using it as part of my arrival brief for new project staff.

  2. I wonder whether the story would have played differently had you been a married man with children of school age.

  3. The old sweats (usually white ‘Africans’) explained early on to me that all they want to do is to understand where the boundary is.

    Precisely, and experience or cultural awareness training would have helped here, particularly Hofstede’s power-distance metric and how different cultures perceive power.

  4. I wonder whether the story would have played differently had you been a married man with children of school age.

    Almost certainly, but then I was sent out to Australia on a few days’ notice in the first place precisely because I was on single status with no children.

    Not for the first time I found the characteristics which landed me the job are the ones which got me in trouble. Back when I worked in Dubai my boss used to say on a Monday “You need to learn to listen to your seniors” then on Tuesday “Can you cold-call this difficult Arab client and BS your way into his office” then on Wednesday “You should be more willing to adapt to the office environment” then on Thursday “Can you go to Korea tomorrow for 5 weeks for a job I know nothing about and take care of it?”

  5. “I think most people got halfway to finding a reasonable outcome, but I don’t think anyone got it completely.”

    Yes, but did anyone fail it so completely that they’ll be sent home from the blog? And can they re-take it?

  6. Almost certainly, but then I was sent out to Australia on a few days’ notice in the first place precisely because I was on single status with no children.

    I phrased my question poorly. As a married man with children you clearly would not have been prepared just to up sticks at the drop of a hat.

    The interesting thing is perhaps how Gilles (and in all likelihood a cohort of HR bods) would have responded to a more obdurate Tim.

  7. The Professor is right, although we will never know what the internal review would have found. I certainly wouldn’t have expected Giles to read it and take a position on it either, although I would be very surprised if he didn’t have the authority to remove you from the project.

    Without having seen your contract, particularly about being assigned and reassigned from a project and how the project assignment interacts with your overall company employment agreement. And on the assumption that it is similar to how Australian contractors normally treat their project staff, then there would have been no obligation for them to keep you on a project for any amount of time and they do have the right to remove you from a project at any time and at their discretion. Unless of course you had an agreed minimum duration on the project written in to your agreement.

    You weren’t fired and assuming that you were paid properly for your time on the project, you were not subject to any unlawful treatment by your Australian employer. I doubt that you would have had any redress available to you under Australian workplace legislation and you were right not to pursue it.

  8. And on the assumption that it is similar to how Australian contractors normally treat their project staff, then there would have been no obligation for them to keep you on a project for any amount of time and they do have the right to remove you from a project at any time and at their discretion.

    That certainly wasn’t the case here.

    As a general observation, I’ve noticed even large companies can put clauses into their employment contracts which run contrary to an employee’s statutory rights. My Australian work contract had a particularly laughable line in which told me the document had never been subject to proper legal review.

    I doubt that you would have had any redress available to you under Australian workplace legislation and you were right not to pursue it.

    I’d be curious to see the clause in Australian workplace legislation which stipulates it doesn’t apply in the case of a permanent, staff employee being assigned to a project.

  9. “I’d be curious to see the clause in Australian workplace legislation which stipulates it doesn’t apply in the case of a permanent, staff employee being assigned to a project.”

    I dont seem to be doing well here in getting my point across. Is there some kind of alleged breach of the employees obligations here that I am missing, is that what you are saying?

    Australian workplace regulation applies to all workplaces, there may be carve outs for military and things like that but it does apply everywhere. All I am saying is that I don’t see any wrongdoing by the Australian company here in finishing you up on the project. There is also a very strong chance that your Australian assignment would have been deemed as a limited duration contract under Australian law, which are not favourable to an employee in disputes of this nature.

    With the benefit of hindsight and knowing that you have now left the company and are saying that the transfer to France was okay but the job was shit, maybe they were managing you out, so to speak. But if that was the case and they decided that you were on the way out back then, then Gilles dropped the ball big time as he should have given it to the company lawyers to find a way of blowing you out of the water there and then and saving the company a lot of money in transferring you around the place and employing you longer.

    Yes, you may have gone for an unlawful termination in that case, assuming that you are not protected by unfair dismissal. So lets just say that you did do this and you beat their lawyers in the case and there was no apportionment against you at all, all that would have happened is that the commissioner would have said that reinstatement to your Australian position is untenable under the circumstances and he would have awarded you damages and say full legal costs.

    Not sure how long you were employed in Australia for and how long you were contracted to work in Australia for. If you did indeed have a specified minimum working duration defined somewhere and had visa clearance and were legally entitled to reside and work for the full duration claimed and your working visa also had no bar on industrial relations action been taken by you. All of that would be taken into consideration in ascertaining the amount of damages due to you,

    I havent done unlawful terminations in Australia but if it is anything like unfair dismissal then the amount is capped out as well. So lets just say OJ’s glove didn’t fit and you slam dunked your employer in all respects, you would be flat out getting a years salary awarded and you would be shouting your lawyer a Penfolds Grange if you did and don’t get me wrong here, as I would be the first to pat you on the back as a job well done if you did.

    So my point here is, if the decision to ultimately move you out was made by your firm at the time of removal from the project. Although they decided to play it safe and transferred you to a job cleaning the bog on the same package in France, paid your travel and accommodation and salary plus on costs, which are 50% in Oz as an example, for I dont know how long but lets say another two years plus accumulation of leave liability, then they burned far more dough on you, than just taking the risk of losing a case and copping the hit in Oz.

    So if that is what they were up to then Gilles fucked up big time here, in not getting his toe cutters to do the analysis, make a case for termination and fire you now, especially knowing that you were not a resident and couldn’t live in Aussie indefinitely or get another job there. Worse case scenario for your firm would shave cost them a lot less than carrying you for the longer period that they did.

  10. I’d have done exactly what the prof said – hand off to HR, get on with useful work. Impossible to get in trouble with that approach, which in my experience in big corporates, situations like that are just filled with land mines for the unwary manager.

    I remember in one of my first middle management roles (running a project at a client site, probably 40 people working for me), one of my direct reports was pregnant then lost the baby. No idea what policies etc are for that so quick call to HR then let them work it out and find a replacement to work on the project.

    Another example on another project was one of my team switching off encryption on an interface and spaffing personal details in clear text across the public internet. Call to legal to report the information breach and follow the process, except in this case I refused to tell legal which particular person did it as it was a failure of the team and process (she shouldn’t have been able to make that kind of change on her own). Leave them with it, get on with the project.

  11. All I am saying is that I don’t see any wrongdoing by the Australian company here in finishing you up on the project.

    They didn’t “finish me up on the project”. They removed me from my position on the basis that my blog post had upset someone in another country.

  12. “They didn’t “finish me up on the project”. They removed me from my position on the basis that my blog post had upset someone in another country.”

    Okay understood, but the employer in his absolute discretion is entitled to do that and has no obligation whatsoever to keep you on any project anywhere in Australia, unless of course that you have specifically agreed otherwise.

    They don’t need to satisfy any workplace legislation requirement in merely removing you from a project of theirs, its the companies project and they are entitled to allocate and remove their staff to and from it as they see fit.

  13. They don’t need to satisfy any workplace legislation requirement in merely removing you from a project

    Yes, you appear to agree with Gilles that being assigned to a project nullifies employment legislation.

    its the companies project and they are entitled to allocate and remove their staff to and from it as they see fit.

    This is trivially true but not in the context of the case concerned.

  14. Okay then Tim, which legislation is that it is nullified that prevents a company from moving any one of their staff members from it?

    I am not trying to be difficult here, I have worked in this space for a very long time, I have been on project assignments as well, both family and single status in Australia and overseas and have seen decent action in the industrial legal environment in the construction contracting sector.

    All I am saying is that unless you have agreed otherwise, an employer is not obliged to satisfy any workplace legislation criteria when removing a staff member from a project.

  15. All I am saying is that unless you have agreed otherwise, an employer is not obliged to satisfy any workplace legislation criteria when removing a staff member from a project.

    I am fairly certain workplace legislation prevents employers from removing staff from projects on the basis of race, gender, or religion. If that’s the case, your statement above is untrue. In other words, legislation does apply.

    Now the legislation which applies in my case might be different, but let’s first establish this and we’ll take it from there.

  16. But you weren’t discriminated against based on any of your state protected attributes that I am aware of.

    No doubt the Frog and the Nigerians may have disliked you a little bit for being a pom that penned that article, but that is not a matter for Australian law and is outside of its jurisdiction.

    From what I have read here, your Victorian employer (if they were based in Melbourne) did not discriminate against any of your (employee) protected attributes.

  17. Both the professor and (present day) Tim are correct but come to different answers because they’re treating Giles in different (equally analytically valid) ways: the professor treats him as Giles, the Manager. But as Tim notes, that doesn’t contribute to a very interesting answer because someone’s going to have to deal with the issue, and we still want to investigate how. So Tim created a dual entity of Giles the Manager and Giles, Synecdoche for The Company.

    (From a technical writing standpoint failing to differentiate them would probably be considered a mistake. But from a rhetorical writing standpoint explicitly separating them—that is, adding a fourth party without even the benefit of a name—would just unnecessarily complicate things for the reader without the effort having justified itself with more precise analysis.)

    Recognizing that, you can pretty much start with the first two steps of the professor’s answer, then replace step 3 with everything after step 1 in Tim’s version, substituting “Giles” with “HR”.

    Contra the professor, I agree with Tim that Giles should go ahead and read the blog post. Even if he’s determined not to get involved in the disagreement Tim and Adewale are still likely to bring it up with him, and when they do, they won’t be looking for a decision so much as a little understanding. “I’ve nothing to do with this. Talk to HR” isn’t going to satisfy anyone. A little informed understanding will go a long way and will cost him only ten minutes of light reading. (Obviously this changes if a lawsuit is a serious possibility.) (A lawyer would say you should ALWAYS act as if a lawsuit is a serious possibility; understandable, but I don’t want to live in that world.)

    One minor issue, and maybe this didn’t come up because present Tim is intimately familiar with past Tim’s mindset. But the two main solutions lean on Tim graciously performing some small atoning gesture. Ostensibly there’s no admission of wrongdoing, but is Tim really going to accept any compromise that leaves his right to publish benign cultural observations on his personal blog still in doubt?

  18. Also, since no one else is going to mention it, I might as well point out how delightful it is that a Nigerian newspaper protested your accusation—that Nigerians will steal anything that isn’t nailed down—by publishing your intellectual property without permission.

  19. Tim — we can all make our own judgment about Gilles and his behavior. From a business standpoint, an interesting question is — Did the project get completed on schedule and on (or under) budget? In a sense, that is an important test of whether Gilles acted appropriately as Project Director.

    I know, I know — this is Nigeria we are talking about! But if you had any insights into the project status, that would be quite informative.

  20. The professor’s answer to what the Project Director should do:
    “2. He passes the article to legal/HR/ethics/whoever and gets back to running his project.
    3. The end.”

    No disrespect to your professor, but the world has probably changed a bit in the few years since he was in industry. Here is what his scenario would probably look like today:

    3. HR & Legal wrangle over this for months, including calling a series of expensive top level international management meetings which result in project delays across the world.

    4. Eventually, the company produces a new policy which requires every employee and contractor to take annual off-site sensitivity training, and every manager to turn in regular quarterly reports to a newly-established Cultural Sensitivity Directorate detailing their actions to ensure a sensitive non-offensive working environment. Gilles is made Senior VP in charge of the Cultural Sensitivity Directorate.

    5. As a result of this increased focus on sensitivity, allegations of culturally insensitive behavior explode across the company worldwide. International project delays increase. The New York Times runs a series of critical articles based on anonymous leaks from the company. Universities begin divesting the company’s stock. The share price tumbles.

    6. Tim’s body is found floating in the Seine. French police pronounce themselves baffled by his curious death. In England, the Conservative Party sends a strongly worded memorandum to the French government that — if any more British citizens are found floating in the Seine — they really really will leave the EU. And this time, they mean it!

  21. But you weren’t discriminated against based on any of your state protected attributes that I am aware of.

    No, but I used that as the easiest way to demonstrate that companies must comply with workplace legislation when shifting someone off a project. Hopefully we can now agree that is indeed the case.

    Now according to the Australian government website:

    Adverse action is action that’s unlawful if it’s taken for particular reasons.

    Adverse action includes doing or threatening to do any of the following:

    changing an employee’s job to their disadvantage

    So I think it’s pretty clear that legislation does apply when changing someone’s job, especially if it’s to their disadvantage. Also:

    It’s unlawful for a person to take adverse action against another person for:

    having or using a workplace right

    And as I said in my original post, the company Code of Conduct and the Ethics Guidelines appear to allow employees to express their opinions in the manner I did.

    But this is all secondary. This isn’t simply a case of putting someone on a different project in the same office, here we’re talking about major changes to the employment contract (changing countries is pretty major). Unless the employment contract allows such changes (they usually allow some minor ones, but not to the point an employee can be reassigned abroad) then it can only be changed with the consent of the employee. So if I’d refused the transfer, they would have had to fire me. And if firing me for that blog post can be construed as “a reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable” (according to the Australian government website) and I think under the circumstances a lawyer could successfully argue that it can, then I have a case.

    All of this should be pretty obvious: can a boss walk up to a member of staff in London and say “You’ve been reassigned to the Mumbai office” without giving a reason and fire him if he refuses to go? No, he can’t, and it’s the same everywhere. Sure, contracts might exist which allow employers to randomly change an employee’s place of employment, but mine certainly wasn’t like that.

  22. You’ve been saving that one up, for the eleventh round, Tim. See if Bardon can make the count now. Eight. Nine. It’s still a points draw for this judge.

    Are you going to study for the International Bar in Workplace Discrimination Tribunals now?

    And Mr Longmuir’s proposed extension to the process process process is excellent. I commend it for consideration by the committee procedure procedure committee.

  23. @Tim,

    Your professor is clearly not qualified to advise you on this; he/she didn’t ask a single question about clause 8.9 (xv, subsection ii), your salary, frequent flyer status, shoe size or the Gantt chart of the project.

    @Bardon,

    TLDR.

  24. Interesting run of posts, Tim. That original Nigeria post is fascinating (as were the other general musings on Nigeria) and I went to the trouble of re-reading it again just now.

    For the record, I thought one of Jonathan’s later posts was the best:

    Explain that the CEO of the Lagos branch got to Tim first, and a full 50% of Tim’s salary is now going to him, and if Tim quits because someone else tries to siphon off him, the CEO will be furious.

  25. @Tim

    Like I said on the previous post, without having seen your contract, every fundamental question on the subject will remain unanswered. It doesn’t sound like you got a legal opinion on your situation when it was going down if you did then the first thing you would have sent them was your contract, your visa conditions and your last pay slip and any relevant correspondence relating to your unsatisfactory transfer. Then they would have set out a defence strategy which you would have introduced by now.

    So this is how I think it would go down if you decided to not accept the transfer, based on the information posted on your blog.

    Some critical points are:

    1. Was there a fixed duration agreed to?
    2. What were the termination provisions?
    3. How long was the employee entitled to work in Australia for?
    4. What provisions were there for ongoing employment after completion of project assignment?

    You weren’t terminated, but you left the project so I think that you are saying that there was some kind of transfer provision in your contract for employment after your role on the project was completed, it sounds like there is contemplation between the parties that your employer was an associated company of your previous foreign employer and on completion of your project assignment, there was an expectation that you would be reassigned to other employment elsewhere by an associated foreign company and obviously not in Australia.

    Your visa condition (again I don’t know what kind of visa you were on) would be restricted to the current role and you must depart Australia on completion of it. There are many hoops your employer would have had to jump through with immigration to obtain your visa in demonstrating that the position could not be filled by an Australian.

    On face value, this is what occurred, your services were no longer required on the project and your employers associated company, reassigned you to other work outside of Australia.

    As you say, you felt you may have had a case that the “transfer” adversely impacted you, but you decided not to fight it at the time. Which I said was a good decision by you.

    So was the “offered transfer” for life after your project assignment unlawful is the question here.

    If you declined the offer then your employer would invoke the termination provisions, which I haven’t seen, pay you out in lieu of notice, and you would then raise a complaint of unlawful termination with the commission. I have laid out in detail what the criteria are for unfair dismissal, and by the way it is capped out at chicken feed compensation values as well and wouldn’t be a viable financial benefit for you to take on Goliath. So I am assuming that you were outside of this threshold and its unlawful termination that will be the basis of your case, which is lawyer land.

    So, if it were me that was dealing with your allegation, there are two ways that I would handle it. The first one is to destroy Tim with extreme prejudice now, the second one would be that we want to keep Tim and not lose him, soften the blow somehow and get you to accept the transfer condition. Neither of these options include you staying on the project because that decision has been made, could be made and you need to live with it.

    First option.

    Tim your services are no longer required on the project, we paid you out, we are going to pull your visa, you done this, you done that, your role was diminishing and becoming obsolete anyway and has now been split up and being covered by existing Australian residents already on the project team. We were about to tell you this as well. We will withdraw our immigration support for you tomorrow, which will give you two week to pack up and fuck off out of the country. We met your termination provisions, enjoy life on the dole and don’t expect a reference from us. Oh, and just so you know the best case for you if you won an unlawful termination would be (guess) one years salary, less the three months that we paid you out. My guys will run interference on this, appeal it on the unlikely scenario that you eventually win, so you might get this result if you are lucky in a year at the absolute earliest. Hope you can fund the legals on the dole and when you lose you will be paying our legals and you know fine well that they charge like wounded bulls. It’s up to you Tim, if you don’t accept the transfer in writing by tomorrow, we are pulling your visa.

    Second option.

    Tim, you are off the project whether you like it or not, it might be a shit sandwich for you, but the decision has been made and we believe that we are legally entitled to do this, let’s face it Tim it was always a limited duration contract, its our prerogative to move staff in and out of projects, its not like we are sacking you or anything. This has been a tough one, and we don’t want to lose you like this, which is why we have gone out of our way to find you another role and that is really all we are obliged to do. But under the circumstances I am going to offer you a project completion bonus of x, I had to pull some big levers to get this, so you are now on the radar. Tim if it were me I would take it, if you are unhappy about it, then start looking for other jobs now, its always easier to find a job when you are in a job. We are not bluffing here Tim, if you don’t take this transfer and completion bonus, we will set the dogs on you and I wouldn’t like to be the poor little bunny that challenges this up through the legal system all the way to the supreme court from outside of Australia. You may think that you can prove adverse action, but I doubt it and the best of British luck to you if you do.

  26. @Bill “TLDR”‘

    Given that you don’t know the differences between one complainant and three disputants I wouldn’t expect you to. Which is why you will never be able to retire early.

  27. Like I said on the previous post, without having seen your contract, every fundamental question on the subject will remain unanswered.

    It doesn’t, because I’ve read my contract. If there were clauses in there which allowed my company to remove me whenever they wanted, I would have mentioned them.

    Your visa condition (again I don’t know what kind of visa you were on) would be restricted to the current role and you must depart Australia on completion of it.

    Irrelevant.

    On face value, this is what occurred, your services were no longer required on the project and your employers associated company, reassigned you to other work outside of Australia.

    No, that isn’t what happened. I was removed from the project because my article upset a senior Nigerian on the project. If that much wasn’t clear from my blog post I’m a much worse writer than I thought.

    So, if it were me that was dealing with your allegation, there are two ways that I would handle it.

    Both of which mean immediately caving in to the Nigerian’s demands I notice, and both sound as though you’re running a whelk stall. That aside, have you finally accepted that workplace legislation does apply when moving people from one position to another?

  28. Interesting run of posts, Tim. That original Nigeria post is fascinating (as were the other general musings on Nigeria) and I went to the trouble of re-reading it again just now.

    +1 from me, very interesting reading – both the posts and the comments – so thanks to all. I’ve nothing to add, sadly my knowledge of Australian labour laws being about the same as my knowledge of Nigerian Bluegrass groups…

  29. @Tim “have you finally accepted that workplace legislation does apply when moving people from one position to another?”

    Yes I do and I should have specified I meant with respect to whether or not an Australian company can move staff in and out of projects.

    Anyway, its been a good chat on this and my approach was never to question your professional competence and I hope that the turn of events being discussed lead you on to bigger and better things with your career.

    The difficulty with these types of discussions on a blog for me anyway, is always the absence of evidence or hearing the other side of the story. So its tricky to engage productively but when I do on these types of subjects its always because I have first hand experience in them and it is to the best of my knowledge and based on your posted information and not to pick a fight with you. There is a danger of group think here when everybody agrees with your position with no understanding of whether or not, or how the empire may well strike back at you.

    Like I said at that start, I think you made the right decision in not contesting the transfer.

    One thing that I suggest you do in your new career direction is to follow some industrial actions, attend court and see how things play out, see what happens to the cocky complainant under cross examination. You have to go there to experience it and I think you would find it very useful. I think that you and all of us will always be in a better position when you put yourself in the other sides shoes and give them credit for not being a pushover and having very real strengths and threats and how you would deal with them if you are going into a legal contest with them, because its a very long, bumpy, nerve racking and expensive ride that should always be avoided whenever possible. And in the end you still wouldn’t know if the judge and the respondents lawyers play golf together, which is something that I have experienced on a so called slam dunk case that I lost.

    All I have done here is set out the employers legal swords and shields in this hypothetical situation as I see them.

    That’s about it for me now on this one. My two month sojourn to the Balkans and the UK is now complete and I am flying back to Australia tonight.

  30. My two month sojourn to the Balkans and the UK is now complete and I am flying back to Australia tonight.

    Cool, fella. Safe travels!

  31. @Bardon,

    “Given that you don’t know the differences between one complainant and three disputants I wouldn’t expect you to. Which is why you will never be able to retire early.”

    If we’re explaining differences to each other, would you appreciate a brief explainer on the difference between “retired early” and “was retired early”?

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